Jackson County

Millette patients want ‘truth,’ won’t meet with SRHS trustees one-on-one

Melanie Polk wanted to know why Dr. Terry Millette was separated from Singing River Health System and why the system kept his patient list.

She said the ensuing turmoil since it happened in November has left Millette’s patients traveling four and five hours to new doctors for re-evaluations and care.

She was hoping Tuesday that one of the three members of the county hospital system’s Board of Trustees, who agreed to meet with Millette patients, would set her mind at ease.

But that didn’t happen. The meeting didn’t happen.

Polk was one of almost 20 people who waited in a hallway at Singing River Hospital to meet as a group with the trustees. However, a hospital spokeswoman said the offer had been for the trustees to meet privately with Millette patients, so they could explain their medical concerns.

“It was not a community event,” said Georgia Storey with SRHS.

To answer Polk’s question about the Millette situation, Storey said, “It was entirely a clinical issue. We parted ways when clinical questions were raised about his treatment of multiple sclerosis patients.

“There’s not much more we can say about that.”

She said in the five months since SRHS ended its relationship with Millette, the hospital has helped thousands of his patients and all have been offered care.

She said the last of the people complaining is a handful.

“Some have refused appointments or not shown up,” she said. “We can’t be bullied into providing inappropriate care.”

She said Millette is free to practice elsewhere.

Jackie Bleau, with the group of patients, said Tuesday afternoon she planned to take the issue to City Hall in the Pascagoula to see if the City Council would hear concerns Tuesday night.

An abrupt end

Millette, a neurologist, had an office at the Health Plex, east of Singing River Hospital, and was an employee of the system with several thousand patients when SRHS parted ways with him.

At the time, some of his employees confirmed, the hospital system met with them on a Sunday and Millette was separated from his patient list.

SRHS’s CEO Kevin Holland and then–Chief of Staff Randy Roth sent out letters to Millette’s patients notifying them he would no longer be with the hospital. With little overall explanation of how things would proceed, SRHS began having Millette’s patients re-evaluated independently at doctor’s offices around the region.

Millette patients who feared an interruption in care could cost them their health contacted the Sun Herald.

But fewer patients are still calling the Sun Herald or going before the Jackson County Board of Supervisors. Supervisors oversee the county, but the appointed Board of Trustees oversees the hospital.

That doesn’t mean all the patients feel safe and cared for.

Still questioning

Polk said what she was hoping to get out of Tuesday’s meeting was “the truth.”

“What happened to Millette? Why did they do this to us?” she said, “Strewing us from one end of the Coast to the other and beyond both sides. We want to know why. We still haven’t been told why.”

She said she believes the hospital system could no longer afford Millette. But she said she also was told Millette made money for the hospital system, so she wondered if it was about personalities.

“There was so much said, that’s one of the reasons we go and yell at the meetings. We don’t know,” she said. Why did they fire him?

“I haven’t found anything that was a reason to subjugate us to a nightmare. We’ve had medicine taken away from us. And we’ve been sent to doctors as far away as Jackson, New Orleans, Hattiesburg and Mobile, and these are doctors that say, ‘We’ll need to see you next week,’ and that means another four-hour drive up and back.”

She said one patient has been making long trips every other week for some time.

“And we’re talking about MS, a disease that causes extreme fatigue. When you drive four hours to Jackson, it takes two days to recover.”

Her own recent experience has been:

“I was in (Singing River) hospital five days and they said, ‘You don’t have MS. You need these tests,’ the tests that they have run, over and over, on me.

“Then they say it’s not MS. If it’s not MS, what is it?

“I’ve seen four doctors and not one of them has said, ‘If this is not MS, let’s see what you do have.’”